- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
ATHENS, Ga. -- If there was a shortcoming in Aaron Murray’s season-opening performance, it’s that he didn’t take advantage of opportunities that could have made it spectacular.
Georgia’s junior quarterback finished the 45-23 victory against Buffalo with a solid passing line -- 15-for-26, 258 yards, three touchdowns and not even a near-interception -- but his issues connecting on deep passes carried over from last season.
He missed open receivers Tavarres King and Rantavious Wooten on the Bulldogs’ first two possessions and later overthrew Chris Conley on another long pass and led Michael Bennett too far out of bounds on a deep ball from Buffalo’s 36-yard line.
“They were there,” Murray said. “They did a great job, Tavarres and Woot, of stretching the field. I was just a little amped up. I’ve got to calm down and put it on the money a little bit, let them make a play.”
Murray’s outing wasn’t all near-misses by any means, however. He hit King on a post route for a 63-yard touchdown and connected with a streaking Wooten on a 38-yard scoring pass in the third quarter.
But after Murray’s completion percentage on throws of 20-plus yards dropped from 48.4 percent in 2010 -- when future NFL draft picks A.J. Green and Kris Durham were on the roster -- to 28.8 percent last season, the Bulldogs know a degree of their offensive success hinges on Murray pushing his completion rate closer to the numbers he posted in his standout freshman season.
“He’s a veteran and when we get a wide-open post for a touchdown, you’ve got to hit it,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “The guy’s wide open and you’ve got protection and it’s your job to put the ball on the money. Now it’s early in the year, everybody’s excited and Murray is a guy who has a lot of emotion. He loves the game of football, so he probably was a little pumped up and let it go a little too far.”
Gurley’s touchdown: SEC Co-Freshman of the Week Todd Gurley said after the Buffalo game that coaches and teammates scolded him for discarding the football a split second before crossing the goal line on his 55-yard touchdown run.
Richt said on his Monday call-in show that it appeared to him on film that Gurley did drop the ball before reaching the end zone.
“We definitely made mention of that to him,” Richt said. “It could have cost him a touchdown right there and the officials didn’t rule any different, so it stands as a touchdown. He certainly has to make sure that he carries the ball into the end zone.”
Facing Franklin: After Monday’s practice, Georgia’s players faced the first of what will no doubt become a barrage of questions about defending Missouri quarterback James Franklin.
Franklin was one of the nation’s top dual-threat quarterbacks last season and presents one of the biggest challenges the Bulldogs’ defense will face this season -- particularly after struggling last weekend against Buffalo’s Alex Zordich, who rushed for 83 yards and passed for 148.
“It was not something we wanted to happen, but seeing the simple mistakes that we had made, we kind of presented the opportunity for him to do that,” Georgia defensive end Abry Jones said.
Franklin was 13-for-21 for 131 yards passing and rushed six times for 39 yards in Missouri’s 62-10 victory against Southeastern Louisiana last weekend -- his first game since undergoing offseason shoulder surgery.
“I think anytime you ever play a dual-threat quarterback, you obviously put emphasis on it because he can hurt you both ways,” Jones said. “So I think it’s something we’ve got to key on and try to kind of stop him.”
‘Old-man football:’ In what is quickly becoming the most overblown angle of the week, Georgia’s players also had their chance Monday to respond to Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson’s comment that the Bulldogs play “old-man football.”
Asked what kind of football he thinks the Bulldogs play, offensive lineman Chris Burnette replied, “We play Georgia football.”
Burnette said he has not contended with much inflammatory trash-talking during his college career and laughed off Richardson’s comments.
“I try not to put too much stock in what guys say before the game,” he said. “You know it’s going to happen. You just look at it and kind of move forward.”
Injury update: Georgia running back Ken Malcome, who left the Buffalo game with a left hand injury, practiced without limitations Monday, although he had a cast on his hand.
Cornerback Malcolm Mitchell (ankle sprain), receiver Marlon Brown (hamstring strain) and running back Richard Samuel (hip contusion) were all listed as limited. Mitchell and Brown did not play against Buffalo.
“There’s some guys that didn’t play that are getting better,” Richt said on his Monday call-in show. “Marlon Brown practiced today and Malcolm Mitchell, he might have done a little scout-team work, but he was out there doing some pre-practice stuff with [director of sports medicine] Ron Courson to try to get ready for some scout team work. So I’m feeling pretty comfortable we’ll be able to get a few guys back that weren’t able to play this last game.”
“Theus of course and Watts Dantzler had ankles that they’re working on and … I guess Ken Malcome hurt his hand and I think there’s a good chance those guys will be able to play,” Richt said.